Lesson Plan

Natural Disasters

Expository texts are a key component of literacy but often do not get introduced to students until the later grades. This lesson helps third- through fifth-grade students explore the nature and structure of expository texts that focus on cause and effect.
Jamie S.
Instructional coach
Duquesne Elementary School
Duquesne, United States
Show More
My Grades K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
My Subjects English Language Arts, Math

Students will

Access prior knowledge by identifying what they know about cause-and-effect relationships

Gain knowledge by defining cause and effect, learning key words that indicate cause-and-effect relationships in expository text, and reviewing a text containing these relationships during a whole-class exercise

Apply what they have learned about cause and effect and demonstrate comprehension of it by locating cause-and-effect relationships within expository text, recording these findings on two graphic organizers, and then using the organizers to write a paragraph

Grades 3 – 5
All Notes
Teacher Notes
Student Notes

1 Hook

Activate prior knowledge about cause and effect by watching a brain pop video on cause and effect. 

 When the video is finished explain to the class that the end result is called the effect. Ask students to tell you what has caused some of the effects in the video. Ask students what they think a cause-and-effect structure is, soliciting examples that you write on the board or chart paper. Additional discussion questions include: Where do they think they might see cause and effect? What type of book or text might contain this kind of structure?

2 Direct Instruction

Begin to read Danger! Volcanoes by Seymour Simon aloud, model the thought process behind discovering cause-and-effect relationships. For example, say something like, "As I begin reading Danger! Volcanoes, I see that there are lots of interesting pictures of volcanoes in this book. I bet I will learn some new information about volcanoes when I read this book." After reading the second page of the book say, "I wonder what causes the volcano to erupt? I bet I will learn that when I read further." After reading the next page say, "I see a key word that makes me think there is a cause-and-effect relationship on this page. The word cause tells me that there is a cause-and-effect relationship described here. The eruption of the volcano can cause dangerous slides of lava, rock, ash, mud, and water.'" As you think aloud during this reading, complete a t-chart in the Show Me app, detailing the cause and effects of the book. 

After beginning the modeling, ask students to think about other cause-and-effect relationships they can find as you finish reading the book aloud to them.

Fill in the graphic organizer by guiding students to share the cause-and-effect relationships they heard while listening to the book. Ask guiding questions such as, "What happens after a volcano erupts?" and "Do different types of volcanoes act differently when they erupt?" This should spark some ideas about cause-and-effect relationships that you can then type into the web or write on the chart paper. 

After completing the organizer, review the key words that signal a cause-and-effect relationship (e.g., if, so, so that, because of, as a result of, since, in order to, cause, and effect) Record this list on chart paper for future reference

3 Guided Practice

Students should work in groups to research using Science News for Kids a different example of an expository text about natural disasters. For this lesson, it works very well to assign students in groups with a wide range of ability levels. This allows them to help one another discover cause-and-effect relationships. Groups of three or four work best to keep every student involved. 

Groups should focus on discovering the cause-and-effect relationships within the natural disaster they are researching. The groups may then have a short discussion of their ideas.

As students read about their natural disaster, they should record the cause-and-effect relationships they encounter in a T-chart, duplicating a graphic organizer like the one created during the beginning of the lesson. Groups should find at least three cause-and-effect relationships from their text.

Circulate while groups are working to provide support and answer questions as necessary.

Students should print out one copy of their organizer for each group member when they finish. Tell them that they will be using their graphic organizers to write a paragraph during Session 3.

After all groups complete their graphic organizers, return to the classroom to discuss the findings. Each group may share an example of a cause-and-effect relationship from their book. Ask students about the key words they found in their text. Questions for discussion include: 

How many cause-and-effect relationships did you find in your book? Can you share one example?

What key words made you think that this was a cause-and-effect relationship?

How will these words help you to think about cause-and-effect relationship in books you read in the future?

4 Independent Practice

Activity: Creating

 Show students the Essay Map and have them use the tool to map out their paragraphs. Tell them to use the tool as follows:


They should write the first sentence of their paragraph in the Introduction box.

They should list the three cause-and-effect relationships in the boxes labeled Idea 1, Idea 2, and Idea 3.

If they want to write a supporting detail for each idea, they can do so in the appropriate boxes (this is not required).

They should write a concluding sentence in the Conclusion box. When they are done, they should print their maps.

Students should use the information on their graphic organizers to write clear paragraphs that include information about at least three cause-and-effect relationships from their expository text.

5 Wrap Up /Extension

Students can record their finished project using the Green Screen app, using illustration examples from their News Article behind them.  They can share these finished products with other classmates and even family members using the Dropbox app.